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The global union database project – UNIONWIKI – was launched today (25/5/14). In true Wiki tradition, the project has soaked up thousands of hours of collaborative work from volunteers within the New Unionism Network, with practical support from the ITF. Next step, if all goes to plan, is to create national union directories and then a facility for free wikis for individual unions. Along the way we also want to find out where our true strengths and weaknesses lie — with graphs showing the data by country, region, sector, confidence level and national income. If you’d like to know more about the project and future plans, please email unionwiki@newunionism.net.

volunteersWe’re looking for TWELVE volunteers to spend a month each as a Guest Editor. The job involves anything from about five hours per week to… well… you set the upper limit. We need your ideas, your energies, your perspectives and your networks. And hey – we need to shake things up a bit! It’s not just about running the Blog and FaceBook pages. We’re happy to see change… love the stuff… so you’re welcome to propose new projects, or conduct provocative interviews, or organize Meet-Ups, or launch a YouTube channel, or create a Prezi, or design a smartphone app… Play to your strengths!

There’s no particular job description for our 12 Guest Editors, just like there’s no wages (sorry – we should have mentioned that earlier!). This is not because we’re tight with money, just because we don’t have any. We get by on volunteer work and a budget south of shoestrings. (so hey – if fund-raising is a strengths of yours, we also need to talk!) In short, this is a great chance to make contacts and work alongside some inspiring strugglers and thinkers. The only restriction is that your work and approach must be in keeping with our principles (here) and our content guidelines (here).

Please contact communications@newunionism.net if you think you can help.

Network member Conor Cradden argues that ILO workers’ representatives have employers on the back foot on the thorny issue of the right to strike.

ILO_snapEmployers’ representatives at the International Labour Organization (ILO) have recently started to worry that freedom of association and collective bargaining rights might mean something more than offering workers a seat at the table and then proceeding to ignore them. They seem finally to have realised what the rest of the world has always known: the point of freedom of association rights is to allow workers to challenge unilateral managerial control over business costs and organization. For the last couple of years the employers have been desperately battling to make sure that freedom of association rights mean as little as possible in practice. However, the 2014 report of the ILO’s independent legal advisory body, the Committee of Experts, suggests that this particular battle is not going their way. (more…)

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This is the final in our series on how global unions might be built. In it, the author argues for a rejuvenated form of solidarity built around occupation. Industrial unions began to replace guilds and friendly societies during the first wave of new unionism – starting towards the end of the 19th century. The labour movement may have lost something critical along the way. Look at the way we talk about work — people do jobs; but people are occupations. The author argues: “…we need to start from the principle that what we do and seek to do is more important than who we do it for.” As we have seen elsewhere in this series (see here, for instance) a revived focus on occupation could be constructed as an added dimension to existing union activity and structures — it need not require any major reconfiguration. The benefits to working people are obvious, as we have seen with professional associations and support networks. But a new approach based on occupational citizenship might also help us address some of the most pressing problems we face:

  • How do we organize and bargain across borders in an age of globalization?
  • How do we organize “the precariat” – that rapidly growing class of workers who come and go before unions can reach them?
  • How do we rebuilt solidarity and influence in an age where many unions are struggling just to sustain themselves?

(more…)

FWUMThis article proposes the creation of a new international sustainability standard certifying that wages and working conditions are set through ongoing processes of good faith collective bargaining. Businesses and unions that comply with the standard will be entitled to apply the ‘Fair Work: Union Made’ label to their products and services. The authors argue that while such a voluntary standard cannot substitute for robust collective and individual labour law, it is likely to be an effective means of promoting collective industrial relations.

If you are interested in being part of a small team to take this idea further, please contact communications@newunionism.net. (more…)

ladderThis week sees yet another make or break conference for the interminable Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks, writes network member Conor Cradden. This time it’s in Bali, and on the agenda (yet again) is breaking the deadlock about multilateral trade regulation (for a quick guide to what’s going on see this piece on the Guardian website).

But, frankly, who really gives a damn? And, more to the point, is export-led development really the only way to a bright future for poorer countries, or is it mostly just a convenient way for a very small number of people in these countries and in the global north to make a lot of money? More yet to the point, is the significantly more socially and economically advantageous strategy of focusing on expanding domestic demand being kept off the agenda because it implies involving workers directly in decisions about pay and conditions? (more…)

reframing_tradeNetwork member Mike Waghorne has written in to recommend Donna McGuire’s new book, ‘Re-framing Trade: union mobilisation against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)‘. Mike says:

Donna is a doctoral graduate of the Global Labour University programme in Germany. Her doctoral thesis, of which this is the book, is on union campaigns on the World Trade Organisation’s GATS. She focuses on two Global Union Federations, Public Services International (PSI) and Education International (EI), the two GUFs most involved in this campaign. She looks at the global campaigns by PSI and EI, including their attempts to involve their national affiliates. She includes a lot of material on their work with a number of NGOs and other civil society organisations, all new work for many union organisations. She also has extensive case studies on union campaigns in two countries, Australia and South Africa. The advantage for me in this book is that, whilst she naturally looks at all the successes achieved, she also looks at the failures of the campaigns, something not often found in work on union campaigns. It is a very useful analysis of campaign work on a global issue which can be very challenging for global unions.

The book was published in 2013 and can be purchased from Rainer Hampp Verlagwww publishers (click here) or ‘soft copy’ can be downloaded from Universität Kassel here: http://goo.gl/mTPLZh.

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